A Dress Fit for Two Brides

(All of the beautiful professional photography in this post was captured by Trinity Photography at Cokesbury College, Hodges, SC. Hair and makeup for the bridal portraits was done by Rose Glow Beauty, Greenville, SC.) The story of my wedding dress starts almost exactly 26 years ago in Gatlinburg, TN when my mama married my dad in a bright-white satin dress with puffy sleeves and a cathedral length train. As you can see, it was a beautiful gown, but my mom claims she never expected that my sister or I would want to re-wear the dress in our own weddings. Nevertheless, I think my grandma might have had a suspicion that the dress would be worn again--even all those years ago--because after the wedding she promptly had the dress cleaned and preserved.

Flash forward to February, and much to my mom's surprise, we are pulling her wedding dress out of its vacuum sealed box for me to try on. Lucky for us, it was still a beautiful bright white thanks to my grandmother's foresight. Unlucky for me, the bodice didn't fit exactly right, and the sleeves and train that had looked so gorgeous on my mother were drowning me. At this point, I had been living in Houston for several months. I was spending some of my free time volunteering with Threads By Nomad. I was working with them by teaching English lessons to Hayder, a tailor from Najasi, Iraq who moved to the US as a refugee in 2014 and currently works for Threads.

As we met together, we learned more about each other's families, interests, and past. Hayder learned a little English, and I learned how hard it is to teach someone English. After I got engaged, Nell and Hayder asked me what I would wear, and I told them about my mom's dress. It was their idea for me to fly the dress out to Houston so that they could work their magic.

Over the course of a month, Nell, Hayder, and I worked together to create what would become my wedding dress. We shortened the train, took in the bodice and added boning for shape, removed some of the original embellishments, removed the original sleeves, and added slim cap sleeves in their place. Nell and Haydar also created a beautiful custom veil for me to wear during the ceremony. During the whole process, Nell and Hayder's focus was always on creating something that I loved and that was flattering. They listened to all of my ideas and were always quick to provide helpful feedback and ideas of their own. We even got my family in on the fun! Facetiming my parents and grandparents for the last few dress fittings will always be special memories for me.

The final result was a one-of-a-kind dress that was both tied to my history and yet still unique to me. I like to think that wearing my mom's dress was a way for me to show the world how important my family's history is to me. Nell and Hayder took a beautiful occasion and made it even more beautiful with their creativity and skill.

At a time when wedding celebrations can so easily become superficial, needlessly expensive, and stressful, I'm especially happy to know that the money we budgeted for my wedding dress was used to support Hayder's family and Threads by Nomad rather than a faceless member of the wedding-industrial complex. We all could not be happier with the way the gown turned out, and the unlikely story of how it came to be is one that I can't wait to pass down.

And as for the dress, my mom just had it cleaned and preserved. Who knows? Maybe, many years down the road, there will be another reason to open that vacuum sealed box.

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